performance conversation

Let’s face it—managing people is hard.

There are things you have to say at every turn: “Do this for me.” “Don’t forget that.” “I’m following up with you because of this.”

The trap? Most managers are so focused on what they need to say that they forget there are times when they should say nothing.

  • The soft way to say that—there are times when the manager should be quiet.
  • The harsh way to say it—there are times when the manager has to shut up.

Performance conversations provide a great example of the need for managers to stop talking at specific times. Here are two times when you (or your managers) should zip it in a conversation about someone’s performance:

1. When you make a statement about someone’s performance.Mike, I noticed that your emails keep getting longer and longer, even after we’ve discussed the need to be brief when you’re updating the Sr. Management team on the status of your projects.” You made a statement on someone’s performance. This is the first point in most performance conversations where you need to stop talking. Let the person respond, and then you can redirect the conversation into what you need from a performance management perspective.

2. When you are ready to talk about what needs to be done differently moving forward. Mike, when you think about what our goals are with those updates, what can you do differently to give them the info they need, but still be as brief as possible in your emails?” This is the point where you’re looking for what the person is going to do differently to modify their performance moving forward. You want them to come up with ideas. So you frame it similar to what we’ve done in the above statement, then you stop talking. You let them respond.

You’re busy as a manager—we get that. But if you want someone to modify their performance, you can’t simply tell them what to do. You’re going to have to allow them to respond and be part of the conversation.

Coaching 101. Make the performance session a two-way conversation and you’ll have the best chance possible at getting the change you want.



WorkCompass’s award-winning performance management software is built for progressive organisations. Some of the most successful organizations in the US use it to transform their appraisals from dreaded annual conversations focused on judging the past to ongoing coaching focused on improving performance for the future.

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